Women and Money~ The Financial Struggles are Real!
I have always told my girls to create a lifestyle that they can afford…on their own! I’m not saying you can’t be hopeful you will have a life partner who will be responsible and will remain in your life. I’m saying that as a young woman, middle-age woman or an older woman, your responsibility in life is to be able to take care of yourself. Ladies, regardless of your age, your financial state is so important! If you have a person in your life who adds to the family income, and shares family financial obligations, great! But if you decide to remain single, or are partnered up and keep finances separate, or find yourself suddenly single, you need to be able to manage and even flourish on your own. Financial struggles can be devastating. Traditionally, money management, financial plans, investments and retirement savings plans were done by the man of the family.
Time to Take Control
Well, honey, times have changed! Gone are the days when a woman had to rely on a man for her money. Gone are the days that a man will ever tell me or you, what to do with our money. I am tired of seeing women young and old, single, partnered up, and especially single moms being short-changed and passed over, financially speaking. Whether you are sixteen years old, working at your first job, or seventy-five years old and full of life experience, at some point you will likely be 100% responsible for your own financial state. Better to learn now what to do, how to do it, and why, in order to be in control of your finances and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Reduce financial stress by taking your finances seriously from the first day of your first job. If you have kids, teach them to always put a portion of their allowance into their first savings account.
Growing up, I was taught about money, the importance of saving, investments, retirement savings, all that. Knowing and doing are two very different things. I struggled as a teenager because I didn’t listen to my parents. Then as a young adult, I opened my own business and things were on a positive, upward trajectory and I loved being my own boss. I work in a different field these days and this job allowed me to purchase my first home. On my own.
What if you didn’t plan?
Financial struggles of some sort and to some degree will happen regardless of your age, regardless of your planning and regardless of your intentions. All the more reason to create and commit to the habit of saving. It does not matter what your current age is, start now! Whatever financial mess you find yourself in, you can get out of it. You don’t have to live with constant financial struggles forever. I got out of it, you can too. It might be messy, but you can do it!
Experts agree that you should first have disability insurance because if you ever find yourself out of work for medical reasons, illness or injury, you need to be able to maintain your financial obligations; rent, food, bills, etc.
Life insurance is second. You may think that as a single woman, you don’t really need life insurance. Yes, you do. Not a lot, just enough to cover funeral expenses, which can boil down to a very small monthly payment. If you have children, then life insurance is so much more important. A great place to figure out how much life insurance you need, is term.ca . There you will be able to enter some general information and get a general idea of your monthly payment for life insurance. Of course they want to re-direct you, but you can choose your own insurance company based on some of this info. The general rule of thumb if you have a family is that you will need enough insurance to cover TEN TIMES your current income plus an amount to pay off your debt. It sounds scary, but speak to someone who knows. You’ll feel better when you know your numbers.
Preparing your Will, is the third step. Canadian statistics show that 56% of Canadians do not have a signed Will. At the moment you are reading this, I am one of them. I am fully aware that I have been lucky…so far. But preparations are underway, and meetings with a lawyer and other financial experts have been had. It is underway! Don’t be like me. Don’t wait. The stress of knowing how bad it could be if I die intestate is sickening. I know it’s hard. It’s scary. It’s awful to sit down and make decisions based on your death. But your child or children and other loved ones are counting on you to set the path. Please, ask the questions, do some research. Yes, it’s another payment you may not truly have the monthly cash for…but the mess we leave behind if we don’t, will be a tangled, stressful, anxiety producing jumble for years. Let’s prioritize this.
Let’s Start Saving
If you didn’t start one with your first job, the fourth step is to open an RRSP. Doesn’t have to be big bucks. Talk to people. Take the mystery, shame and fear out of money. Ask the questions of people you trust. Call the bank to inquire. It doesn’t take any money to ask questions. I know, it takes bus money, or gas for the car, or paying a babysitter; I truly understand that because I was so broke at one point, I could barely function. ASK FOR HELP! Bus money, a ride to the bank; just get there.
Experts suggest that step five is to build an emergency fund. When you don’t have two dimes to rub together, there’s no way you can create an emergency fund. But when you can, this is necessary. Think of the difficulties of 2020 and covid related job losses and related issues. When you can, start your emergency fund. Sadly, single people generally have to save more of their income than married people do, simply because if you have an emergency, you only have yourself to rely on.
Now, we must create a realistic budget, step six. Budgets are like resumes; we all need one, but creating one is such a dreaded task. Go online if you can, and find a good financial website to assist you. There are many. You can also check out Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s tips, financial information and workshops to help you prepare a budget. This woman knows money! See her Money Master Class at Money Master Class . She is on Twitter as well. There are workshops, pdf’s, worksheets etc. Do not skip this step!
What if you have debt?
Most of us do have debt of some type. Step seven, tackle your debt. How? Well, begin by not creating any more debt. Buy only what you need, when you need it. You don’t really need that Tim’s coffee. You don’t need take-out food. Beer and wine…nope. And I can say that because I have lived it. It costs so much more for anything “convenient” such as take-out food, coffee, etc. Stop. Plan your meals, shop accordingly and stick to that budget. Remember, you’re doing this for you. This is not imposed on you by anyone else. This benefits you. Yes it’s difficult. I found a few resources to help you figure out how to manage your finances; moneysence.ca is a great one.
FOCUS ON THE FUTURE~
Boost your income– find some way to increase your income. A part time job, a task you can take on at home, an online job. If you’re crafty, make and sell your products. Walk your neighbours’ dogs, do their errands, house-cleaning or yard work for seniors or anyone who needs the help and is willing to pay you for it. If you really dig deep, you can find some way to make extra money. Put ALL of that money toward your debt every month.
The Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services has information on tax credits, tax benefits and other financial supports. Go to children.gov.on.ca.
The two words most feared by single moms- Insufficient Funds. I had $1.09. I needed groceries for my 3 beautiful girls. I started to sweat. I was shaking and scared. I started to cry. I was angry, depressed and felt like a total loser. Can you understand the panic that courses through your veins when you realize you have absolutely no money? How would I feed my kids? Pay my already overdue bills? Buy gas so I can get to work? I don’t know if my kids ever noticed the weird concoctions I created with whatever was in the cupboard, for their dinners, or why mommy was only having tea for dinner, but on that day when I put my bank receipt showing $1.09 balance on the fridge as a reminder, I vowed I would never be that broke again.
Even though I felt an incredible amount of shame and embarassment, I did whatever it took to not waste money, to save money, and to make more money. I worked two jobs for quite a long time. For most of my kids’ growing up years, we did not have cable t.v. Some winter months, I kept the heat at 16 degrees, and we all went to bed with sweats, hats and mitts on, under multiple blankets. If I saw a dime on the ground, I picked it up. I bought meat in family packs and two chicken thighs fed four of us. I raised my children in poverty while looking back at my financially healthy upbringing; wondering how the hell I got to this point.
I want to say that divorce was the reason but it wasn’t the entire reason. It was in fact the event that started years of chaos, but had I been more financially disciplined and dare I say, financially rigid with my personal money, I may have fared a bit better when hit with the breakup, new expenses, financial support issues, etc. Divorce will still hit you hard, both financially and emotionally, but if you plan ahead, you may not suffer quite as tragically as some people have, as I and my children did.
I have family and friends who love me and my girls. Without those people, well, I don’t even want to imagine what it would’ve been like without those people; My parents, my sister Donna, my oldest and dearest friend Barbie, a long-time very special friend Jim, and a family friend named Kathy who had one of my daughters over for countless lunches and dinners, and summer trips to the cottage, I suspect as her sweet way of helping out. These people cared. They saw what I couldn’t bring myself to say. I needed help. They were there for us and I will always be grateful.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed ask for help. Just take that first step; the rest will follow.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for your patience while I dealt with pre-Christmas overwhelm at work, and a renovation gone wild with unexpected leaks and an added/unexpected bathroom gut job…Check back next Sunday for another blog post.
Carol Paino~ Parts Of Ourselves